Riker Electric Automobile, ca. 1900

Andrew Riker was one of several electric vehicle enthusiasts who rose to prominence in the early automobile manufacturing industry. In 1884, when Riker was a teenager, he designed and built a three-wheeled electric tricycle. Four years later, he established the Riker Electric Motor Company in Brooklyn, New York to manufacture motors and dynamos. The Riker Electric Vehicle Company, which he founded in 1899, built more than a dozen types of electric cars and trucks. In the early 1900s, most cars were small and open, but the owners of the Smithsonian’s ca. 1900 Riker electric demi-coach, Herbert and Martha Wadsworth, were born to wealth and could afford a large, enclosed car, even though it was at the upper end of the price range. Herbert inherited vast acres of farm land in upstate New York, and he managed a creamery and flour mill. Martha’s father, Henry Blow, developed mining interests in Missouri and became a leading figure in the industrial and commercial development of St. Louis. Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth spent the winters in Washington, D. C. and mingled with the city’s social elite. In 1902, they built a Beaux Arts mansion on Washington’s fashionable Dupont Circle. They equipped it with modern conveniences: electricity in every room, dual steam radiator and forced air heat, a refrigerated room cooled with ice, and the most up-to-the-minute form of urban transportation, an electric automobile. Working with their architect, they designed a ground floor tunnel that substituted for a porte-cochere (exterior shelter over a driveway). With no tailpipe emissions, the Riker rolled safely and silently through the depths of the mansion, and it carried Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth through Washington’s winter weather in relative comfort. An “automobile room,” one of the first indoor garages in Washington, was equipped with battery charging equipment and a car wash to keep the Riker ready for use.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1900
Riker, Andrew Lawrence
Riker Electric Vehicle Company
overall: 8 3/16 ft x 77 in x 10 13/16 ft; 2.48717 m x 195.58 cm x 3.30098 m
overall: 90 1/2 in x 75 1/2 in x 128 in; 229.87 cm x 191.77 cm x 325.12 cm
United States: District of Columbia
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Road Transportation
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Herbert Wadsworth

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.